Using a trampoline is a great activity to improve balance. It can also be part of a sensory diet. Indoor trampoline parks are a fun place to socialize with other kids. But if you’re not confident your child will follow directions or if your child isn’t old enough for a trampoline park, you can also get a mini-trampoline for supervised use at home. Keep in mind that it’s important to follow safety rules, like having a jump bar.
Hopping and jumping require strong gross motor skills, balance, and coordination. Hopscotch is a simple way to practice those skills. (As a bonus, it can help practice number skills, too!) If you don’t have a sidewalk to draw on or a playground nearby, you can set up hallway hopscotch using painter’s tape.
3. Martial arts classes
Mаrtіаl аrtѕ trаіnіng is a good way to help kids develop strength in their arms and legs. Actions like kicking, punching, and grappling work to develop those core muscle groups. It can help kids with balance and knowing where their body is in space — motor skills that can be a problem for kids with sensory issues. Martial arts can have additional benefits for kids with ADHD, too.
4. Playground play
Playing on the playground can have many benefits for kids. Swinging on a swing set can help kids develop balance. It also helps them learn how to coordinate shifting their weight and moving their legs back and forth. You may also want to encourage your child to use “unstable” playground equipment like rope ladders and wobble bridges. While they can be scary before kids get used to them, they help work trunk muscles.
5. Balloon and bubble play
Balloons and bubbles are a unique way to build gross motor skills because you can’t predict where they’re going to go. Kids can chase bubbles and try to pop as many as possible. While chasing them, they have to run, jump, zigzag, and move in ways that require sudden shifts in balance and weight. The same goes for throwing and trying to catch or kick balloons. For more structured play, you can set up a game of balloon volleyball.
6. Tricycles, scooters, and pedal cars
Some kids who struggle with gross motor skills may learn to ride a trike or bike later than their peers. But there are alternatives they can use to get places and practice balance. Some tricycles come with handles so you can push while your child practices pedaling. Or you could invest in a sturdy scooter or a pedal car. They’re all stepping stones to riding a bike. Once your child gets the hang of it, you can even set up an obstacle course or draw a track with chalk. (Just don’t forget the helmet!)
Whether it’s a dance class or an indoor dance party, dancing is good gross motor practice. It helps kids develop balance, coordination, and motor sequencing skills. It also helps build your child’s awareness of rhythm. For little kids, try using songs with lyrics that add movement, like “I’m a Little Teapot” or “The Hokey Pokey.”
8. Obstacle courses
Obstacle courses get kids moving and give them a goal to accomplish. For an indoor course, use furniture, pillows, and blankets to create areas to crawl on, under, and through. Outdoors, you can use things like hula-hoops to jump in and out of, jumping jacks, belly crawling, bear walking, and other creative movements that challenge your child to balance, crawl, jump, and run.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.
Keri Wilmot is an occupational therapist who works with children of varying ages and abilities in all areas of pediatrics.